In the aftermath of recent events happened in Turkey, we decided to clear the smoke and show how anonymity and private proxies are the answer to free journalism.
Before we begin, we must specify this is not a political paper. We are only demonstrating through two examples how staying anonymous helped journalist continue unhindered their work. Work that disclosed abuse and corruption.
To begin with, let us give you some numbers.
During its existence, YouTube has been banned temporary in almost 23 countries. Facebook and Twitter are quickly coming from behind as the next two most banned social networks.
This will make it clear that staying anonymous is the only way for true journalists. Journalists that are uncovering disturbing truth about our society. Either in investigative style or live reporting during the unfolding of particular events. Events like Turkey’s failed coup during the night of July 15th 2016.
TURKEY AND ITS BITTER RELATION WITH INTERNET FREEDOM
YouTube has been banned in Turkey more than 5 times since 2007. Last time was on 16 April 2015. But during the coup, Friday July 15th 2016, YouTube along with Facebook and Twitter were blocked for several hours.
As the coup started losing steam, the ban was lifted. But this sort of Internet ban during times of upheaval can be dangerous for journalists. And also for citizens. Mainly because aggressive authorities can not be reported to the international community.
It will not be the last time Turkey will ban social networks. Foreign and domestic journalists in Turkey are able to access sensitive social networks through the safety of privacy only through proxies and VPN.
As freedom of speech is limited not only in Turkey, but in many developing countries how can investigative journalists uncover and report disturbing truths?
PANAMA PAPERS AND THE SUPPORT OF PROXY
There is no secret anymore that offshore money laundering, corruption and tax avoidance is very common. Starting with April 2016, the Panama Papers scandal disclosed more than 11.5 leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm.
All documents size amount to almost 2.6 TB of data. Enough to take a person more than 100 years to browse.
This impressive amount of data needed a certain number of people to investigate and collaborate. They needed to collaborate and share information safely over the Internet.
Actually, the investigative consortium was formed by 200 journalists. Spread all over the globe. For security reasons they could not use the open Internet to communicate and share the documents between them.
How do you think it looked for a Russian journalist to send an email with attachments to a Chinese and a German journalist? And with the email subjects line similar to: “Putin’s friend”?
It was impossible for this investigation to continue without the cover of anonymity. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists specifies VPNs as one of their favorite tools for staying anonymous. We are certain they are working unhindered on the next big headline.
As a journalist or news outlet you have to understand that private proxy and VPNs can help you in two different ways.
FREEDOM OF REPORTING IN CONTROLLING COUNTRIES
For journalist in controlling countries. Countries as Russia, China or Turkey. It is important to stay anonymous for your personal safety.
While some websites are banned. You can access them through private proxies. And at the same time, you can report even in times of uncertainty and upheaval. After the failed coup in Turkey, Erdogan’s crackdown on its enemies will probably become more aggressive than before. It will turn into a purge.
As violations of human rights have been reported before in Turkey. It is a matter of time until the next report will emerge to the surface. Journalists will manage to report any aggressive behavior, and circumvent Internet ban, by using anonymity tools.
YOU MUST KEEP YOUR INTERESTS SECRET
For a news agencies, it is important to use privacy and anonymity tools to maintain freedom of speech.
However, using tools just for you news output it is not enough. A news agency needs also to gather information. Your input. Either from government agencies or from corporations. Two types of entities that are high spenders on privacy and security tools.
If you are working for an important news company in your country, there are chances your IPs are known by certain government agencies or corporations. Your investigative efforts can be in vain if you are doing research, web browsing and sending emails from your news headquarters.
You need to keep your research anonymous. One simple tool to use is private proxy. Your online presence will look random and will not make your research subjects raise eyebrows when they will see certain on-line activity coming towards their website or servers.
AS A CLOSING WORD
In certain countries Internet freedom is limited. Some countries even bans it. In more liberal countries your news research needs to stay anonymous until you gather your facts.
For an accurate reporting of Turkey events, conventional tools are not enough. They are usually monitored and temporary banned.
For future investigative efforts as Panama Papers, private proxies and anonymity tools will be an integrated part of their arsenal. Big collaborative projects needs to stay secret until their work is finished and ready to hit the printing presses.
For a news agency working within time news reporting or investigating sensitive cases, privacy and anonymity tools are necessary. Private proxies and vpns will help keep your work secret both for your safety and the safety of your disclosure.
The more sensitive a subject is. The more it will be scrutinized. The more the journalist working on it needs to stay anonymous. All this in the name of Internet freedom and freedom of speech.